Diverse Functional Autoantibodies in Patients with COVID-19

medRxiv. 2020 Dec 12;2020.12.10.20247205. doi: 10.1101/2020.12.10.20247205. Preprint


COVID-19 manifests with a wide spectrum of clinical phenotypes that are characterized by exaggerated and misdirected host immune responses 1-8 . While pathological innate immune activation is well documented in severe disease 1 , the impact of autoantibodies on disease progression is less defined. Here, we used a high-throughput autoantibody discovery technique called Rapid Extracellular Antigen Profiling (REAP) to screen a cohort of 194 SARS-CoV-2 infected COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers for autoantibodies against 2,770 extracellular and secreted proteins (the "exoproteome"). We found that COVID-19 patients exhibit dramatic increases in autoantibody reactivities compared to uninfected controls, with a high prevalence of autoantibodies against immunomodulatory proteins including cytokines, chemokines, complement components, and cell surface proteins. We established that these autoantibodies perturb immune function and impair virological control by inhibiting immunoreceptor signaling and by altering peripheral immune cell composition, and found that murine surrogates of these autoantibodies exacerbate disease severity in a mouse model of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Analysis of autoantibodies against tissue-associated antigens revealed associations with specific clinical characteristics and disease severity. In summary, these findings implicate a pathological role for exoproteome-directed autoantibodies in COVID-19 with diverse impacts on immune functionality and associations with clinical outcomes.

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